COP28 in Review: Pivotal Progress or Missed Opportunities in Climate Action?
Breaking down the Dubai climate summit: A comprehensive review of COP28's major decisions on energy, finance, and global climate action strategies.
Published:
Loading reading time...
COP28 in Review: Pivotal Progress or Missed Opportunities in Climate Action?
Breaking down the Dubai climate summit: A comprehensive review of COP28's major decisions on energy, finance, and global climate action strategies.
Published:
Loading reading time...
COP28 in Review: Pivotal Progress or Missed Opportunities in Climate Action?
Breaking down the Dubai climate summit: A comprehensive review of COP28's major decisions on energy, finance, and global climate action strategies.
Published:
Last updated:
Loading reading time...

COP28 in review

In November 2023, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, took centre stage as the host of the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Running from 30th November to 12th December, this wasn’t just another entry in the series of climate summits; it marked a critical crossroad in the global fight against climate change, an issue that continues to reshape our world dramatically.

The timing and backdrop of COP28 were crucial.

Following the footsteps of COP26 in Glasgow, which set ambitious climate action blueprints, and COP27 in Egypt, known for its incremental progress, COP28 faced the daunting task of translating past commitments into actionable, tangible policies.

These previous conferences had laid the groundwork, establishing pledges and intentions, but it was now COP28’s turn to drive these intentions towards fruition.

COP28 Logo
Source

COP28’s role was multifaceted:

  • It served as a global forum where nations collectively strategized to combat climate change impacts, focusing on both mitigation and adaptation.
  • It represented a vital checkpoint for assessing global progress towards the ambitious goals set in the Paris Agreement.
  • It was a platform to encourage action, urging nations to move beyond dialogue to concrete steps against the escalating reality of climate change, from extreme weather events to the loss of biodiversity.

As such, COP28 wasn’t just another meeting – it was a decisive call for urgent action in the face of a rapidly changing climate. This article aims to shed light on the outcomes of COP28, exploring the key decisions made and their broader implications for the global climate agenda.

Takeaways from COP28

Here are the key takeaways and their implications for the global climate agenda:

  • Commitment to phase out fossil fuels. The landmark agreement to transition away from fossil fuels marks a pivotal shift in global energy policies, emphasising the need for more sustainable energy sources.
  • Renewable energy pledge. The collective commitment to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 underlines a global consensus towards reducing dependency on fossil fuels.
  • Financial commitments and Loss and Damage Fund. The Loss and Damage Fund and other financial commitments reflect a growing recognition of the economic dimensions of climate change, especially for vulnerable nations.
  • Global stocktake and future pledges. The comprehensive assessment of progress and the focus on enhancing NDCs highlight the need for more ambitious climate action plans.

Landmark deal to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels

COP28 marked a significant milestone in the global fight against climate change with its landmark decision to move away from fossil fuels, a primary driver of global warming.

Several critical components underscored this monumental shift:

Adoption of the Loss and Damage Fund

A major highlight was establishing the Loss and Damage Fund. This fund is designed to support countries most vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of climate change, providing financial aid for recovery and adaptation efforts.

The decision to set up this fund was met with widespread approval, acknowledging the disproportionate impact of climate change on developing nations.

Significance of the agreement

The agreement to transition away from fossil fuels is monumental. It signifies a global recognition of the need for cleaner, renewable energy sources.

This shift is not just an environmental imperative but also a matter of social justice, ensuring that future generations inherit a sustainable planet.

Criticisms and challenges

Despite its groundbreaking nature, the agreement faced criticisms. A notable concern was the vagueness of the commitment to phase out fossil fuels.

The language used in the final agreement left room for interpretation, leading to fears of inadequate implementation.

Furthermore, the lack of specific timelines and clear-cut strategies for this transition was a point of contention among environmentalists and policymakers.

Funding commitments

The initial Loss and Damage Fund pledges included notable contributions from countries like Germany and the UAE, each committing $100 million.

These pledges, while a positive start, sparked discussions about the adequacy of the funding. There is a growing consensus that much more financial support will be needed to address the loss and damage caused by climate-related disasters.

COP28 Dubai summit attendees
Crowd at COP28 (Source)

130 countries agreed to triple renewable energy

At COP28, a groundbreaking consensus emerged among 130 countries, committing to substantially increasing renewable energy usage.

This agreement marks a pivotal shift in the global approach to energy consumption and its impact on climate change.

Commitments made

  • Tripling renewable energy capacity: The countries pledged to triple their renewable energy capacity by 2030. This commitment is a bold step towards reducing dependence on fossil fuels, which are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Leadership from major economies: Key players such as China and India, known for their substantial energy demands, were front and centre in this agreement. Their participation underscores the global nature of this commitment and the universal recognition of the need for renewable energy.

Potential global impact

  • Reduction in global emissions: By significantly increasing renewable energy capacity, the agreement aims to lower the global share of fossil fuels in energy production. This shift is crucial for reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating global warming.
  • Promoting sustainable development: The move towards renewable energy is not just about cutting emissions; it’s also about fostering sustainable development. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are becoming increasingly cost-effective and can drive economic growth in a more sustainable manner.

Significance in limiting global warming

  • Aligning with the 1.5°C target: The agreement is a significant stride towards achieving the goals set in the Paris Agreement, particularly limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • A symbol of global unity: This collective pledge by 130 countries sends a powerful message of unity in the fight against climate change. It demonstrates a shared commitment to acknowledge the problem and work towards a solution.

The commitment by 130 countries at COP28 to triple renewable energy capacity is an example of the growing global consensus on the urgent need to transition to cleaner energy sources.

This initiative has the potential to significantly reduce global emissions and make a meaningful impact on limiting global warming.

Global stocktake

The Global Stocktake at COP28 was a pivotal exercise, extensively evaluating the world’s collective progress in addressing climate change.

Instituted under the Paris Agreement, the Global Stocktake occurs every five years and is a key mechanism for assessing and enhancing the effectiveness of climate action globally.

It involves a comprehensive review of each country’s achievements and challenges in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate impacts, and providing necessary support to those in need.

The stocktake plays a vital role in shaping future national climate pledges. It offers a reality check on current efforts and highlights areas needing more attention.

COP 28 Global heating projections
Global warming and projected greenhouse gas emissions under various scenarios (Source)

Key outcomes

  • Emphasis on fossil fuels: A central focus of the stocktake was the role of fossil fuels in global warming. The discussions underscored the need for a significant reduction in fossil fuel usage to meet climate targets.
  • Recognition of emissions peaks: The stocktake acknowledged that global emissions need to peak between 2020 and 2025 to stay within the 1.5-degree target, emphasising the urgency of immediate action.

Communication strategies and involvement

  • Negotiation dynamics: The stocktake involved intense negotiations and showcased various communication strategies, ranging from diplomatic discussions to public protests and advocacy.
  • Global participation: Countries across the spectrum, from those heavily reliant on fossil fuels to those already facing severe climate impacts, participated actively. This diversity highlighted different perspectives and the complexity of reaching a global consensus.

The road ahead

  • Keeping the 1.5°C goal within reach: The Global Stocktake at COP28 highlighted the need for accelerated action and stronger commitments from all countries to achieve the 1.5°C goal.
  • Varied country involvement: The involvement of various countries in addressing fossil fuel use, and the discussions around phase-out versus phase-down strategies, showcased the differing national priorities and challenges in achieving consensus.

In essence, the Global Stocktake at COP28 was a critical exercise in transparency and accountability, offering a clear view of the global efforts in addressing climate change and the urgent need for enhanced collective action.

Loss and Damage

One of the most significant outcomes of COP28 was the focus on ‘Loss and Damage,’ a critical yet complex aspect of climate change discussions.

This concept, increasingly prominent in climate negotiations, refers to the impacts of climate change that go beyond what communities can adapt to or recover from.

It encompasses both the economic losses (such as damaged infrastructure) and non-economic losses (like loss of biodiversity and cultural heritage) resulting from climate-related disasters. COP28 aimed to address the need for support and compensation for these irreversible damages, particularly in vulnerable countries.

Consequences of climate disasters

Climate disasters, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and prolonged droughts, have catastrophic impacts on communities, economies, and ecosystems.

Developing countries, especially small island nations, bear the brunt of these impacts despite contributing least to climate change. This raises questions of equity and justice in the global climate response.

Human influence on types of extreme weather
Number of studies for each type of extreme event that fall within each category of human influence (Source)

Controversies and challenges

There has been a longstanding debate on the responsibility of developed nations, historically the largest polluters, to financially support developing countries facing the worst impacts of climate change.

Assigning a monetary value and quantifying loss and damage is complex, as it involves tangible losses (like property damage) and intangible losses (like cultural heritage).

Initial funding pledges, while a positive start, have been critiqued for being insufficient in the face of the scale of the problem. The fund’s adequacy and sustainability remain major concerns.

Long-term strategies

There’s a consensus on the need for innovative and robust financial mechanisms to support countries facing climate disasters.

Long-term strategies also involve integrating loss and damage considerations into national climate adaptation and mitigation policies.

Adaptation and mitigation

COP28 highlighted the dual challenges of adaptation and mitigation, key pillars in the global response to climate change. These discussions encapsulated negotiations, challenges, and varying perspectives from countries, underlining the complexity and urgency of climate action.

Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA)

  • Equity and Responsibilities: A major focus was on equity and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” (CBDR-RC). Developing nations emphasised the need for significant support in their adaptation efforts.
  • Contentious Negotiations: The negotiations revealed differences in perspectives, with developed countries cautious about setting specific financial targets, while developing countries stressed the urgent need for clear commitments and support.
  • Outcome: The GGA discussions culminated in a commitment to enhance adaptive capacity, resilience, and vulnerability reduction, but without quantified targets or a clear roadmap for financial and technical support.

Mitigation Work Programme (MWP)

  • Focus Areas: The MWP centred on scaling up mitigation ambitions, particularly emphasising clean-energy pathways and reducing emissions.
  • Economic Considerations: A significant area of debate was the economic impact of mitigation actions. Developed countries highlighted the need for adequate finance and technology transfer, while developing countries called for more substantial support.
  • Challenges and Progress: The programme faced challenges in aligning various countries’ interests and capacities. The outcome was a commitment to continued dialogue and technical refinement, but with some countries expressing dissatisfaction over the removal of specific references to the 1.5°C target.

Diverse Perspectives and Challenges

  • Developed vs Developing Countries: The negotiations highlighted the differing priorities and capacities of developed and developing nations. While all agreed on the urgency of action, the pathways and support mechanisms remained contentious.
  • Balancing Adaptation and Mitigation: A key challenge was balancing immediate adaptation needs with long-term mitigation strategies, ensuring that both are adequately addressed in national and global policies.

In essence, the discussions on adaptation and mitigation at COP28 underscored the need for a more cohesive global strategy that acknowledges different countries’ circumstances while pushing for ambitious and concrete climate action.

Climate Finance

Climate finance was a pivotal topic at COP28, addressing the critical need for funding to support global climate action. This section examined the current status of climate finance, the challenges faced, unmet commitments, and the necessity for equitable distribution of funds.

Current status and unmet commitments

  • Funding Shortfalls: Despite developed countries’ pledge to provide $100 billion annually for climate action in developing nations, this target has consistently been missed. The shortfall has significant implications for these countries, which are often at the frontline of climate impacts.
  • Quality Over Quantity: While the quantity of funding is crucial, there’s an increasing focus on the quality of climate finance, ensuring that it is effectively used for intended purposes like mitigation and adaptation.

Challenges

  • Gap Between Pledges and Disbursement: A persistent challenge is the gap between pledged amounts and actual disbursements, which hampers climate action plans in vulnerable countries.
  • Loan vs Grant Debate: Much of the climate finance comes in the form of loans, adding to the debt burden of developing countries. There’s a growing call for more grant-based financing.

Equitable distribution of funds

  • Fair Distribution: The equitable distribution of climate finance is essential, ensuring that it reaches the most vulnerable and impacted communities and nations.
  • Adaptation and Mitigation Balance: Funds need to be balanced between adaptation – helping countries cope with climate impacts – and mitigation – reducing future climate change.

Looking forward

  • New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG): COP28 set the stage for establishing the NCQG, aiming to replace the $100 billion goal with a more substantial and fitting target.
  • Improved Transparency and Accountability: There’s a growing consensus on the need for improved transparency and accountability in climate finance, ensuring that funds are used effectively and reach those in need.

Climate finance discussions at COP28 highlighted the urgent need to bridge the gap between commitments and actions, ensuring fair and adequate financial support for global climate action.

Other key issues

COP28 addressed several critical aspects beyond the primary focus areas of adaptation, mitigation, and finance. These included gender action plans, climate empowerment actions, and nuanced aspects of climate finance, each playing a vital role in shaping a holistic approach to climate action.

Gender action plan

The conference underscored the importance of integrating gender equality into climate action. Recognising that climate change impacts women and men differently, a gender action plan aims to ensure equal participation and benefits.

Key strategies include empowering women as decision-makers in climate policy and supporting initiatives led by women in climate resilience and sustainability.

Action for climate empowerment

This initiative focuses on increasing the capacity of local communities to engage in climate action. It emphasises inclusive processes, ensuring that vulnerable populations have a voice in decision-making.

A significant component is raising awareness and understanding of climate change, promoting informed and sustainable choices at the community level.

Nuanced aspects of climate finance

Climate finance discussions extended beyond funding commitments to address issues like the structuring of financial support, focusing on grants over loans, and exploring innovative financing mechanisms like green bonds and climate funds.

Emphasis was placed on linking financial flows to tangible climate action, ensuring that funding translates into measurable progress in mitigation, adaptation, and resilience building.

Broadening the climate agenda

These discussions highlighted the need to integrate diverse perspectives and needs into the climate agenda, acknowledging that effective climate action requires a multifaceted approach.

The focus on gender and local empowerment, along with nuanced financial mechanisms, reflects a shift towards more inclusive and comprehensive climate strategies.

These additional themes at COP28 reinforced the notion that tackling climate change requires diverse and inclusive approaches, considering the varied impacts on different communities and integrating multiple aspects of sustainability into the broader climate action framework.

Looking forward

As COP28 concluded, the focus shifts towards the future steps necessary for achieving net-zero emissions. This part of the discussion evaluates the impact of financial commitments made at the conference and whether these actions are sufficient for the ambitious goals set.

Next steps towards achieving net-zero

  • Countries need to revise and strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions NDCs to align with the 1.5°C goal, incorporating more aggressive emission reduction targets.
  • Embracing innovative technologies for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon capture will be crucial in reducing emissions.
  • Implementing policy reforms and legislation that promote sustainability and penalise high emissions is essential for driving systemic change.

Assessing financial commitments

  • Adequacy of pledges: The financial commitments made at COP28, notably for the Loss and Damage Fund, need to be assessed for their adequacy in comparison to the scale of required climate action.
  • Timely disbursement and utilisation: Ensuring the timely disbursement and effective utilisation of these funds is critical for their intended impact, especially in vulnerable countries.

Evaluating the sufficiency of actions

  • Gap analysis: Evaluating the gap between current commitments and what is needed to achieve net-zero emissions is vital. This includes analysing emission trends, renewable energy adoption rates, and the effectiveness of climate policies.
  • Increased global cooperation: Achieving net-zero requires increased global cooperation, with developed countries supporting developing nations through technology transfer, capacity building, and financial aid.
  • Public and private sector roles: Both public and private sectors must play active roles in this transition, with businesses adopting sustainable practises and governments creating conducive environments for green investments.

While COP28 laid down critical pathways and commitments, achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century requires sustained efforts, enhanced global cooperation, and constant evaluation of progress.

It’s a collective journey where every step counts, and the actions agreed upon at COP28 must be the beginning rather than the end of this endeavour.

Frequently asked questions

The primary goal of COP28 was to assess global progress in combating climate change and to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement. It aimed to turn previous commitments and pledges into actionable policies, with a focus on reducing fossil fuel dependence, increasing renewable energy, and addressing financial aspects of climate action.

The decision to transition away from fossil fuels was a landmark step at COP28. It marked a global recognition of the need to shift towards cleaner, renewable energy sources to combat climate change. However, the agreement faced criticism for its lack of specificity in phasing out fossil fuels and the need for clearer implementation strategies.

Over 130 countries committed to tripling their renewable energy capacity by 2030. This commitment is significant as it represents a major global effort to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and is a crucial step in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, particularly limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Global Stocktake is a process under the Paris Agreement to assess collective progress in reducing global emissions and achieving climate goals. It is important because it provides a comprehensive review of how far countries have come in meeting their climate commitments and highlights areas where more action is needed.

The Loss and Damage Fund, established at COP28, is aimed at supporting countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This fund is significant as it acknowledges the need for financial aid to countries facing severe impacts from climate disasters, and addresses the issue of financial responsibility of developed countries towards developing nations.

Photo of author

Author

Jose Antonio Barba Gomez
Jose is a sustainability researcher with a thirst for knowledge. He has a Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering, a diploma in Finance, and a Master's in Environmental Engineering.

Leave a comment